'Well we always had Christmas parties, when your uncle was still alive.'
'He is still alive, he's living in Stoke with Neville.'
'You could check in the shed.'
'Why would he be in the shed, Auntie, he's very happy with -'
'For the photographs.' She was looking at me, all severe now. 'If we had a party we always had photographs. I always keep photographs, I'll have a look around.'
'What does it matter though? Why so interested?'
I nearly told her, but I knew she'd laugh. Because really, if you think about it, there was only one explanation. Coincidence. There must have been another Sally in the family I'd never heard about, and whoever had written that on the wall twenty years ago, they hadn't meant me, they'd meant her. They'd meant that mysterious other Sally from twenty years ago. I wondered what she
was like. I wondered where she was now, and if her hair was frizzy. And I wondered most of all why she'd been kept a dark secret all these many years. Perhaps she'd been horribly murdered for Deadly Reasons!
As I was about to go to bed, I looked hard at my Aunt - the way I do when I'm warning adults not to lie to me - and asked, 'There was another Sally Sparrow, wasn't there, Auntie? I'm not the first, am I?'
My Aunt looked at me really oddly for a moment. I half expected her to stagger back against the mantelpiece, all pale and clutching at her bosom, and ask in quivery tones how I had uncovered the family secret and have terrible rending sobs. But no, she just laughed and said
'No, of course not! One Sally Sparrow is quite enough. Now off to bed with you!'
I lay in my bed but I couldn't sleep! There had to be another Sally, there just had to be. Otherwise someone from twenty years ago was trying to talk to me from under the wallpaper and that was just stupid!
When my Aunt came in to kiss me goodnight (I always pretend to be asleep but I never am) I heard her put something on my bedside table. As soon as I heard her bedroom door close, I jumped and switched the light on! Maybe this was it! Maybe this was her dark confession - the truth about the other Sally Sparrow, and her Dreadful Fate. Sitting on my bedside table was a box. I gasped horrendously! I wondered how big a box would have to be to contain human remains! I narrowed my eyes shrewdly (and also bravely) and looked at the label on the lid (though I did think labelling murdered human remains would be a bit of an obvious mistake).
The label said 'Photographs 1985'.
The Christmas party ones were right at the bottom, and took me ages to find. They were just the usual kind, lots of people grinning and drinking, and wearing paper hats. My fat Aunt was there, still with Uncle Hugh, and my Mum and Dad too looking all shiny and thin. And then I saw it! My eyebrows raised in perplexity again, slightly higher this time. Because standing right in the middle of one of the photographs was a man with a leather jacket and enormous ears. He was in the middle of a line of grown-ups laughing and dancing, but he was looking right at the camera and holding up a piece of paper like a sign. And on the sign it said 'Help me, Sally Sparrow!'
I gasped in even more amazement. There was another Sally Sparrow and obviously she was taking the photograph. And probably she was a bit deaf, and you had to talk to her with paper signs, because hearing aids hadn't been invented yet.
And then I looked at the next photograph. And that's when everything changed. Suddenly it was like the school bell was ringing in my ears and I could feel my heart thudding in my chest so hard you could probably have seen the buttons bouncing on my pyjamas.
There was the man again, at the back of the photograph, holding up another piece of paper. And this one said 'Look under the wallpaper again.'
As I reached for the wallpaper again my hand was shaking away like when you try to do your homework on the school bus. The next bit of writing was much longer and this is what it said.
'This isn't a dream, and by the way you should never try to do your homework on the school bus. I'm going to prove this is real. Think of a number, any number at all, and then get dressed, find a torch, and see what's carved in the bark of the furthest tree in the garden.'
When people think of a number, they always think of ten, or seven or something. They never think of a really big, stupid one. So I did, I thought of a big, stupid one. Then I halved it. Then I added my age. Then I took away Tim's age. Then I added four, just because I felt like it. And then a few minutes later, I was standing in the garden, shivering, staring at the furthest tree.
And there it was, carved like it had been there forever. No one ever thinks of the number 73. Except me. And the man who had carved the furthest tree in my Aunt's garden twenty years ago.
I sat on my bed for ages, just shaking and wondering what to do now. But it was obvious really. I tore off the next strip of wallpaper. This time, it just said 'Top shelf in the living room, right at the back.'
Continued... | Episode Guide